Cruise firm rides the wave


Global cruise operator Royal Caribbean is sailing in comfortable waters in the Middle East.

The company's Middle East office in Dubai said that although its business in the region was negatively affected by the events of September 11 with a spate of cancellations immediately after, the recovery has been quicker than anticipated.

"Even though we braced ourselves for a difficult first quarter we were met with a pleasant surprise recently when Royal Caribbean sent a report to us showing that the week ending February 22, business was actually 478 per cent up against that same week last year," said Debbie Summers of Royal Caribbean International.

"The recovery has been quicker than we ever anticipated and planned for and whilst we have a lot of sales to catch up with, given the negatives before this month, we are overjoyed that the recovery started earlier than anticipated.

"We have only ever seen growths over the years and positive exciting trends. The year 2001 witnessed the biggest growths ever from January-August resulting in a 57 per cent increase on income and August alone resulted in a 90 per cent increase in invoiced gross sales alone."

Summers said thousands of people from the region join the cruises annually with nearly 70 per cent of them being nationals from the region.

The company's ships have been calling into Middle East since 1999 at the start of their special 'Royal Journeys' concept which continued in 2000 and had plans for 2001 as well.

"Dubai was not only included in the schedule but also used as a turn around port for disembarking passengers from the first leg of the schedule and embarking passengers for the next leg of the schedule," said Summers.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are the brands operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, the second largest global cruise vacation company in the world.

The cruise line also recently announced the summer schedule of 47 cruises in Europe with a total weekly capacity of 7,384 berths.

The season will include 34 Mediterranean schedules, eight Scandinavia/Russia schedules plus another five varying schedules ranging from Best of Europe, British Isles and Norwegian Fjords.

Three ships have been deployed to Europe for the season, two of which - the Constellation and Brilliance of the Seas - are brand new ships sailing their inaugural seasons.

Besides the European schedule, the company will also be offering a host of Caribbean cruises as well as the faithful 7-Night Mediterranean cruises that will start the season in early April and finish late October.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity have the youngest fleet in the industry with a combined total of 23 ships in service and six new builds, including the two which have been deployed in Europe this season.

The vessels are nothing less than luxury floating resorts that have towering lobbies, theatres, shops, workout rooms, fine dining, casual dining, lounges, libraries and galleries among others.

The combined fleet calls in to hundreds of different ports with a wide range of sailing duration options starting with the shortest at 3 nights, middle 7 nights and the longest 16 nights.

This summer, a total of 18 ships will be deployed around the US operating a wide range of Caribbean cruises and five others operating Alaska cruises beside the three deployed in Europe based in Barcelona-Spain, Dover-England and Harwich-England.

The company also offers seasonal cruises ranging from South America to the Far East and Australia.

The company's Dubai office has recently launched a local website for the Arabian Gulf and Lebanon.

The site,, has been launched with the objective of narrowing down the comprehensive information available on the corporate site and to present it in a format which would be of interest to travellers from the Arabian Gulf and Lebanon.

Internet surfers accessing the site's home page will find an easy to use menu choice with click-through buttons to information on destinations, family programmes, honeymoons at sea, meetings and incentives, the company said.

Of particular local interest is the menu choice for "Souk Wise" where visitors can view the lowest available prices for select itineraries and available sailing dates.

"We have paid particular attention to the site's character in terms of region, culture and content and an example of this is Souk Wise," said Ashok Kumar, regional sales support manager.

"This will be updated regularly with the best available pricing for our passengers booking here in the Arabian Gulf and Lebanon."

Visitors to the company's site will find online opportunities to make a booking or request a free quotation.

They may also order a free brochure, subscribe to Royal Caribbean Arabia's newsletter or simply send an email with any questions they have.